In which Shannon had a lot of early warning signs…

by Shannon

firefly.org
image from firefly.org

My office is being invaded by, of all things, ketchup bugs. I have no idea what they’re actually called (that’s a lie–clover mites? maybe. something like that). The miniscule, bright red things that crawl all over your front porch in the summer, so deemed “ketchup bugs” in preschool when we discovered that, when crushed in reasonably large quantities, their entrails looked as if someone had tried and failed to clean up spilled ketchup.

That was the age when insects existed only to be murdered in gratuitous and cruel ways by bored and curious human children. We would pull all the legs off of a daddy long legs just to watch them twitch, and grimace only at the weird smell it left on our hands. We played god, “creating” earthworms by cutting them in half so they could regenerate. (At some point, some adult had made the mistake of telling us that earthworms have multiple hearts, and will regenerate on both ends.) Lightning bugs were flying, natural glow-in-the-dark crayons, and caterpillars wanted nothing more in life than to be shoved into a jelly jar with two leaves and a stick. As it turns out, children are cruel, and inherently psychopathic. Either that, or actual psychopaths only never really managed to lose their childlike sense of wonder.

Anyway, I find them every day, crawling on my desk and on all of my copies. Since I’ve outgrown the sadistic pleasure of torturing innocent insects, this results in many failed attempts to encourage the things that my desk–or anywhere else–is a much better place to sit than the papers I have to copy/mail/fax. In other words, there’s a lot of hyperventilation, frantic waving and coaxing.

I mean, I can’t just hand over paperwork with bright red insect guts all over it, right? So, instead, I dance around like a crazy person.

I also keep finding stinkbugs, but since I don’t have access to a screen-less window and I’m on the third floor, I’ve mostly resorted to ignoring them and stepping over them when I encounter them. They mostly blend in with the carpet, so I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person who has noticed them. When I worked at Target, I used to capture bugs like that (harmless and not really bothering anybody) and carry them outside to live in the bushes. My favorite one was the snail that a guest (customer, customer! Damn you, you insidious Target lingo!) found in the raspberries. The little guy had somehow survived the gas, transport, AND refrigeration. I had great fun carrying him around and introducing him to all of my coworkers before delivering him to his new outside home.

On a somewhat less tolerant though thematically appropriate note, the exterminator finally came at home. Hopefully this means that I don’t have to suffocate on Raid fumes every other day. (There were a lot of wolf spiders living in my bedroom and bathroom, and, sorry, despite my mostly pacifist position on murdering innocent creatures, I’m not carrying those things anywhere.) And maybe if they discouraged the wasps and yellow jackets from building their annual nests all over my house and my deck, I can actually spend time outside without fleeing in terror.

Honestly, it is kind of pathetic that I continually react that way. I grew up in the woods, for crying out loud. I pulled out all my own ticks and killed most of my own spiders (though, admittedly from a distance, by dropping my mother’s old medical textbooks on the big ones while perched on tables and the backs of sofas), but yellow jackets, wasps and hornets are one line I cannot cross. I literally run away in panic. I have never actually been stung, so the whole thing has built up in my psyche for twenty years into something awful despite the fact that I know I’m being ridiculous. I think this irrational fear goes back to my having watched My Girl on television when I was a little too young. The part where the kid knocks down the hornet nest, and they sting him until he DIES? Yeah. Death by bee-sting had never occurred to me before that. I watched that and Arachnophobia around the same time, and coincidentally (or not) these are the two crawly things that I just cannot handle.

At any rate, the little crawling blood spatter are by and large the most exciting part about my day. In my absence, I have lived in weeks full of envelope stuffing, copy making, label printing and traffic jamming. I’ve started–and broken–a steady gym routine. I’ve paid bills and wasted hours on Netflix and gotten more rejection letters. In other words, I’ve done literally nothing worth noting or bragging about. So, instead, I watch tiny insects crawl all over my papers, and look forward to the weekend.

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